Hello, I’m Cathryn Higgs. As head of food policy I’m constantly looking to find ways we can live and breathe co-op values to help our customers and members.
The Co-op has always been a leader when it comes to championing the customer’s right to food that is formulated, manufactured and marketed in a way they can trust. The Rochdale Pioneers set up their own shops to protect workers and provide ordinary people with good food at fair prices at a time when food was regularly not what it said it was – bread flour bulked out with chalk, milk diluted with water and tea that really wasn’t made with tea leaves.
We’ve always campaigned for clearer food labelling and easy to understand nutrition labelling which led to us introducing a front of pack scheme a decade ahead of the government’s traffic light system. We’re also proud to have been the first to label eggs intensively produced, a technically illegal step but which directly led to the law being changed allowing eggs to be labelled ‘from caged hens’.
More well-known is our commitment to Fairtrade. We believe that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and take seriously our commitment to improving the lives of people in the communities we trade with. Which is why are still the only retailer to have converted all of our own brand tea, coffee, block chocolate, sugar, bananas and roses to Fairtrade and are proud to be the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade wine.
Openness, honesty and social responsibility are part of our Co-op ethical values and we have a long history of taking action to support customers right to know about how the products they buy are made and sourced so that they can make an informed purchasing decision and the best choice for them personally.
Right to know – for the digital age?
We’ve started exploring ways we can deliver on this policy using digital and one of the ways we are doing this is by looking at partners who are already leading the way.
We’re working with Provenance.org, a social enterprise using blockchain technology to enable transparency of data and verification of claims in supply chains, in order to tell verifiable stories about where our food comes from and how it gets from source to our shops.
To do this, we are running an alpha to see what’s possible. Then we will consider the value this could offer our customers and members as part of our commitment to help them make decisions that fit their budget values and ethics.
We’ll update you on our progress as we go.
Head of Food Policy